Transformative Trends: Benefit Consolidation & Employee Wellbeing

Wellbeing and Benefits Trends

Transform asked leaders in our community to share with us what trends are emerging in their benefits offerings. We found that EAP usage is up, wellness is expanding, and consolidation is vital for ease of management and accessibility.

At Transform, we have the privilege of learning about innovative solutions and emerging trends from people-driven business leaders across the globe. In recent conversations, we’ve noted leaders exploring benefit consolidation in response to increased offerings during the pandemic. Now, leaders aim to streamline their offerings to ease the burden of program management and improve the employee experience. On our journey to learn more about benefit consolidation, we learned about equally important priorities: mental health and wellbeing.

Benefit Consolidation 

We surveyed benefit leaders of all company sizes and asked if they had considered benefit consolidation within the last three months. We found that 40% of the leaders we surveyed are considering or have already consolidated their benefit offerings. The decision to streamline offerings is a result of low utilization, the significant workload required to manage offerings, and the desire to improve the ease of use for the employee. For some, the increased workload and frustrations with accessibility are caused by the increase in point solution implementation during the pandemic.

Rhiannon Payne of Remote and Author of The Remote Work Era published a comprehensive Global Benefits Report surveying 2,500+ decision-makers and employees in 2022. The report outlines benefits to consolidate in the event of a downturn. In addition, Remote’s report proposes discontinuing benefits that are “regarded as essential by a smaller portion of employees.” These benefits include volunteer time off, stipends for the gym, cultural activities, and tuition savings.

As businesses consider consolidation, people-driven leaders recognize the importance of effective communication when making this significant change to employee benefits. As one leader shared, “This is an especially critical time to stay deeply engaged with employees about their needs and requests — with the collective trauma we’ve experienced over the past two+ years, employers need to be tuned into both articulated and unarticulated needs.” HR leaders are developing strategic communication plans highlighting improved employee experience as they shift benefit providers. Andrea Morales, Vice President of People, Rewards, Data & Operations at Affirm, shared, “Most of [the changes] we introduced as replacements to cumbersome and complicated policies, so it was easy to communicate how simple it was to now access benefits.”

As a solution, some total rewards leaders are implementing more full-service benefits solutions that cover multiple types of offerings to make benefits more accessible and manageable. Here are a few solutions highlighted by leaders we surveyed:

Leaders we interviewed shared many health and wellbeing solutions and elaborated that this was the main focus of their benefits strategy heading into 2023. Specifically, leaders are focused on finding robust solutions to meet increased utilization of their EAP and mental health benefits.

Priority #1: Health & wellbeing 

Every leader we spoke with shared that the most impactful benefit they offer is related to employees’ health and wellbeing. 90% of those specifically highlighted mental health benefits as the most impactful. Here are a few examples of what companies are offering to meet the needs of their employees:

  • “Our move to a 4-day workweek has been the most meaningful post-pandemic offering we’ve provided.” – Natalie Breece, Chief People + Diversity Officer @ ThreadUp
  • “We believe mental health is just as important as physical health. In the US, in addition to free counseling sessions offered through our Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP), we offer an onsite counselor, and outpatient mental health care through our health plan is fully covered. We’ve also supplemented our network of providers. We continue to remove as many barriers as possible so our employees and their families can get the mental health care they need.” – Shawna M. Oliver AVP, Head of Global Benefits & Wellness @ Manulife
  • “We continue to receive very positive feedback from employees for the level of coverage we provide in our healthcare, including vision and dental, with a great deal of flexibility (HRA to PPO).” – Duane Bray, Partner/Chief Talent Officer @ IDEO

The discussion around mental health has been top of mind for many over the last few years. However, our research indicates that EAP utilization is increasing, mental health claims are shifting from anxiety to depression, and leaders are experimenting with targeted mental health solutions.

The experiments we’ve learned about are innovating to improve employees’ overall quality of life. We recently spoke with leaders interested in piloting Mindbloom as a more effective alternative to talk therapy and traditional prescription benefits. While Jenny Dearborn, Chief People Officer, Board Director, and Advisor, proposes focusing on supporting sleep as the foundation of wellness intervention, stating that “Sleep is the true foundation of Health & Wellness, it would be great if corporate benefits recognized this.” Experimentation with sleep benefits is made accessible by evolving sleep technology. Furthermore, it could immediately impact employees’ overall wellbeing, as established by the research on the strong association between insomnia and work stress. With a mere 56% of companies reporting to Dataforest that they have wellbeing initiatives but no formal programs, it appears there is an opportunity to experiment and establish robust wellness programs in the near future.

What’s next in benefits?

Overall, it appears that there will be a change in companies’ benefit offerings at the end of 2022 and well into 2023. Leaders are leaning into this transition by focusing on employee wellbeing and improving program management and access while communicating their strategies effectively. We appreciate all the leaders that contributed to our survey and hope their shared insights empower other leaders to explore people-driven benefit strategies.

See an upcoming trend? Share it with us.

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